Saving face versus saving grace

A little over a year ago, I found out through a good friend that an acquaintance’s (let’s call him A) application to a school for a doctorate program had been turned down – twice, as he failed the admission test again when given a second chance at it. Prior to the great blow to his plans, A had been informing many he knew that he would be furthering his studies. And being the sharp guy that he is, many expected that he would do well. So, when I found out that he had failed to get into the program, I was as shocked as he probably was.

Due to the nature of the situation, I never broached the matter with him (so as not to “shame” him). But once I asked a good friend of his how A’s plan for his doctorate was coming along. This mutual friend informed me that A told him the school he applied to rejected him as they would not accept his pre-qualification degrees (from a competing school). Upon hearing this I was taken aback and not a little troubled by the misleading reason A gave for his failure to be admitted into a doctoral program. I subsequently discovered that that is what he had been telling everyone for his so-called rejection by the school.

Recently while talking to another mutual friend (let’s call him B), B said that it is totally understandable and not at all unacceptable even for Christians that A did not tell the truth about his situation. As far as I was concerned, A lied about his situation. But B believed that it is alright if someone distorts the truth (in other words, lie) in order to save face. (B is Chinese but A is not)

As I consider B’s stance on truth-telling (or the lack of it), a few questions come to mind: 1) the importance of truth-telling as a follower of The Truth, and 2) the difference between cultural idolatry (judging what is true and right by our cultural norms rather than judging our cultural norms by what’s true and right) and cultural redemption.

I am firmly of the opinion that as followers of The Truth, we are called to redeem all that is good and right. For example, the importance of community and filial piety within our Asian worldview should be rightly valued. But saving face via half-truths or straight-up deception? What do you think?


~ by iccthomas on April 6, 2012.

One Response to “Saving face versus saving grace”

  1. I was in a similar discussion about Hispanic culture… Someone was excusing the co-dependency and passive aggression of a person as “just their culture” and refused to set boundaries and stand up to it.

    Every culture has its blind spots. Mine too. That’s a reason for being less human, but not an excuse to be less human.

    The gospel stories tell of a major cultural penetration of heaven to earth. And if we claim heaven, then we must begin to live by heaven’s cultural norms, rather than our own.

    What makes it worse is when people save face in the name of the gospel. That’s near demonic.

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